By Raïssa Robles
Today, a Filipina who threw herself in front of a bus in Hong Kong to shield a boy she was bringing to school was laid to rest in the Philippines.
Citing eyewitnesses, the Hong Kong police said the woman, identified as Juanita Agustin Limbago, 31, had seen the bus bearing down on them as they crossed a street. She quickly grabbed the six-year-old boy and placed herself between the bus and the boy.
“Without regard for her own safety, Juanita turned her back to the bus and used her arm to protect the boy,” the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said in a statement.
Both were dragged by the bus. Later, the bus driver claimed he did not know his bus had hit anyone until someone frantically called his attention.
Juanita died of internal injuries at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong. The boy is still shaken but physically fine.
“The Hong Kong police told me ‘your wife is not at fault. The bus is at fault,” Juanita’s husband Edwin told me.
A shocked Edwin told me he had talked to his wife on the phone a few days before the June 10 accident.
Sabi ko sa kanya mag-ingat siya lagi, miss na miss ko na siya, gusto ko na siyang mayakap.
[I told her to take care always. I told her I missed her and I wanted so very much to embrace her.]
Before I go on with the story, I want to thank OWW Administrator Carmelita Dimzon and Dolor of OWWA for helping me look for Edwin in the midst of a raging storm. It was due to their persistent efforts to locate the bereaved husband who had flown all the way from Qatar to Hong Kong to Manila, that the South China Morning Post, which I write for, was able to publish a meaningful tribute to Juanita today.
And of course, I wish to thank Edwin for sharing with me – a total stranger – and the world his family’s private grief.
Edwin said the tragedy had initially made his eight-year-old son Marc very angry.
Sinisi niya anak ng employer, ang driver, at ang Diyos – bakit kinuha nanay niya. Sabi niya, kinuha mo na ang kapatid ko.
[He blamed the child of Juanita’s employer, the bus driver and God – why did He take his mother when he had already taken his brother.]
Edwin explained that their eight-month-old baby had earlier died.
Pinaliwanag ko sa kanya dahil nagalit kasi siya sa Diyos. Anak, sabi ko, huwag mong sisihin ang Panginoon. Kinuha na siya ng Diyos kasi meron siyang misyon sa Panginoon. Ngayon siya na ang nagpapatahan sa mga ibang batang umiiyak.
[I explained to him because he was railing against God. I explained to Marc, `Son, don’t blame God. Your mum was taken away by God because she has a mission with God’. Now, Marc is the one telling the other kids not to cry.]
What gave Juanita the courage to throw herself between the bus and the boy?
I asked myself that question when I was doing this assignment.
I found the answers on Juanita’s Facebook Wall, to which Edwin so generously gave me access and allowed me to quote from and get pictures from.
Juanita and Edwin lived in West Rembo, the lower side of Makati City. They dreamt what you and I also dream of – a house of their own and a good education for their son. Both started college but did not finish – Juanita in Accounting and Edwin in the Philippine Merchant Marine School.
Edwin, 35, used his skills to land a job in Qatar Logistics. Juanita stayed home and tried her hand in selling real estate and educational books. Her decision to work overseas did not come easy for her.
On November 8 last year, she wrote on her Facebook wall that she wanted to “grab the opportunity” to make her dream come true. But she said she also had to consider her husband.
i want my dream come true and by that time i can say ” ive done” my paraan nmn eh kya grab ang opportunity na alam kong kaya ko…sa kbilang banda, i have to consider the decision who is also involve in making my decision…my husband, and with his support and trust sobrang lumalakas ako, na para bang wla nang pwedeng gumiba pa sa pader na sinasandalan ko…. alam ko na nanjan lang sya sa tabi ko sa buhay ko….
[With his support and trust I become fully strong as if there is nothing that can break the wall that I am leaning on….I know he is just here beside me.]
Finally last March 2011 she left for a two year contract as a domestic helper-au pair in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Her Facebook entries are filled with the longing, pain and hope resulting from her separation from her son, husband and home.
Her entry on May 8, Mother’s Day, was full of quiet anguish as she wrote to her young son:
marc today is my day but without you i am not a mother…i love you baby with all my heart…this is our day…
Barely two weeks into her contract in Hong Kong – which OWWA told me started March 2, 2011 – Juanita wrote to Edwin
dear miss na miss na kita…madali lng nmn ang 2yrs eh, kaw nga kya mo ako rin…basta nanjan ka lng pra skin kaya ko lahat lahat!!!! mamimiss ko tlga c marc dear,
Dear, I miss you so very much. Two years is not very long. What you can do I can do, too. So long as you are there for me, I can endure all these. I really miss Marc, dear.
Of her employer, she wrote “my employer is kind.” Her only complaint was that she was barred from drinking coffee. Edwin told me his wife said her employer did not like the smell of coffee.
The absence of coffee made Juanita’s head ache at times and she wrote in exasperation a month into her contract:
“i need coffee!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i cant live without it! coffee..coffee…..”
On the second month of her work in SkyTower in Kowloon where her employer lived, Juanita took to posting Bible quotations on her Facebook Wall. One of them was from John 3:16:
for GOD so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whsoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And this is one of the last photos she posted of herself in the garden fronting SkyTower, Kowloon:
I found it curious that two years before her death, Juanita wrote about the need in this world for self-sacrifice after she watched the disaster movie 2012:
i watch the movie 2012…kung ganun ang mangya2ri stin kawawa nman kme kc we cant afford to buy a ticket worth 1billion euro, converted to 46.6billion pesos…suppose that its gonna be real” mahirap tlga maging mahirap” as the saying goes by. pero in the story good heart wins…some are going to sacrifice to save many lives, God only knows and sometimes we have to admit that we r going to go there what we called end
[I watched the movie 2012…if that is what will happen to us, then we’re doomed because we can’t afford to buy a ticket worth one billion euro, converted to 46.6 billion pesos…(I) suppose that it’s gonna be really hard to be poor as the saying goes. But in the story the good heart wins…some are going to sacrifice to save many lives. God only knows and sometimes we have to admit that we are (all) going to go there, what we call (the) end.]
Aurora p says
Juanita is a real savior for the person she let survive, don’t you think the Chinese people are not awaken to what happen to Juanita ? She was the person who repay for what happen to those Chinese killed by the police hostages gunmen ?
I pray hard to let Juanita rest in peace for what she did ?
Aurora p says
This message was p/up from my Facebook friend who followed Philippine News
Congressional Reform Act of 2013 1. No pork barrel. 2. Serving in congress Is an honor, not a career, Envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and come back to work. 3. Term limit of six(6) years, Just like the President, No re-election. 4. No Dynasty, Wife ,Children, Brothers/Sisters and Family members can hold public office. If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people to receive the message. Dont you think it’s time ? tHIS IS HOW YOU FIX THE PHILIPPINES WALANG CORRUPT ! wALANG MAHIRAP !
She may rest in peace. I hope Pinoy will succeed in his economic plan so that fewer OFW will leave their family.
Aurora p says
Yes if Pinoy can help all Pinay stay home this will not happen ?
Aurora p says
I have read a message from my Facebook friend in regards to that Congressional Reform Act of 2013 allow me to post it?
1. No pork barrel
2. Serving in congress is an honor, not a career, envisioned citizen legislators, so ours
Should serve their term(s) then go home and back to work.
3. Term limit of six(6) years, just like the President . No re-electio n .
4. No dynasty, wife, children,brothers/sisters, and family members can hold public office.
If each person contact a minimum of twenty people then it will only take Three days for most people to receive the message. Don’t you think it’s time.
This is how you fix the Philippines
Walang Corrupt ! Walang Mahirap !
If you agree with the above pass it on, If not, just delete. You are one of my 20+- Please keep it going , And Thanks.
who authored it?
Hi,raissa! I’ve been reading your blogs and I am grateful for all those in intelligent blogs of yours,and with this one I am really crying it went straight to my heart because I am also an ofw and a mother like Juanita who just wanted to have a comfortable life for my kid,I do hope that Marc when he grow up needn’t have to go to other country to find a job,I am still hopeful that somehow those people in our government will do their best to uplift the economy of the Philippines which would result in a better life for all the Filipinos,I hope they would keep in mind first to serve rather than steal to benefit themselves and their family.
And thank you for visiting my site, Chars.
Do drop by often.
pinay l.a. says
This is the moment to set aside my own pain to feel the pain of others. Thank you for sharing Juanita’s story. May she rest in God’s peace.
Ted Marcelino says
I am a 65 yr old resident of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where a lot of Filipinos have chosen to settle. I have followed with interest the blogs posted and printed on the internet edition of the Inquirer and I found yours to be the most interesting and fascinating. I am currently a serving Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Manitoba. I represent Tyndall Park which is a constituency composed of the communities of Tyndall Park, Garden Grove, Weston and Brooklands. As such I serve in the constituency office and at the legislature a significant number of Filipinos whose lives have forever been changed when they moved to the very welcoming province of Manitoba. They are OFWs too. WE all are OFWs.
I read your letter with great interest.
I have this belief that one day, Filipinos who have settled overseas as well as their children would be making an impact on the communities where they have settled down.
You are one of them.
I’d like to ask you – how is politics there different from that in the Philippines? Do you also have the equivalent of pork barrel? Why do politicians in Manitoba, for instance, see no need to resort to threat and intimidation. Why are there no political killings over there?
It would be interesting if you could share your insights.
Thanks in advance,
robert Antonio says
I have just discover your blog today. Your blog on the impeachment of Corona awaken my patriotism. I can’t stop reading your blogs (though i have some paper works to do). Naturally, when your an OFW you’ll going to check OFW section that’s why I came across this article. This incident lift my pride as a Filipino and at the same time feeeling that I am about to shed tears for Juanita, her husband and son. @ Juanita, you have given your life to someone, your family would be proud of you for the rest of their life. @ Edwin, brod, be strong! @ Marc, your mother has given you the true meaning of love and sacrifice. Fill your heart with love.
Sable zablan says
Would juanitas survivors be compensated for her death? Would the Phil embassy in HK advocate for juanita ‘ s family to bring suit vs the bus co whose driver killed her?
Tjhere was no suit.
Juanita was covered by a HK-government imposed accident insurance.
Also by OWWA insurance.
On top of that, nothing.
Sable zablan says
Thanks. Only that? Pero at least meron noon,must be double indemnity.
Nicanor C. Radomes says
I came to know of this sad incident only now. Being a grandpa and a father myself , I really feel sad over the loss of Juanita whom I consider a modern-day hero. I pray that her soul may rest in peace. especially that she’s a child comforter now beyond the blue as understood by her son Marc.
To Edwin, take good care of Marc. It’s God’s wills and knows what best things are for you.
What is done cannot be be undone, all accidents are caused. She may have done thr right thing in protecting the kid but the bottomline is, stop, look and listen before you cross a street.
Is she at the right pedestrian crosswalk, looking at right direction where traffic is coming from? HongKong being a former british colony, drives the british way vehicles have their steering wheel on the right thus they drive on the left side of the road whereas some countries including us, the Philippines have the steering wheel on the left we drive on the right side of the road.
Always think of safety while walking on the street that is STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN walk on the side facing traffic.
The Hong Kong police said she is not at fault.
I think after nearly three months in HK she would have gotten used to the HK traffic even if it follows the British way.
She’s not dumb, you know.
Norman Sison says
Hi. I see your point. However, you can get used to the left-hand traffic flow in a week. I know because my family and I took a vacation there for a week a few years ago. Same thing when we were in Malaysia, where the traffic flow is on the left side.
CESAR ARELLANO says
yes very sad, to sacrifice her own life to protect someone she care for, so Mark, think of it how your mommy will do if something comes to you in harms way, she love you very much that she will give her life for you, Your mommy is a hero, she showed to the world that we are a very good people.
Juanita may you rest in peace we filipinos love you forever.Only Marcos, Ejercitos and Arroyo destroys our heritage.
You said it.
Nanie Geronimo says
Why did this piece make me shed a tear? Is it for Juanita? Her son? Her husband? Yes and also for the many others who labor, sacrifice and cope with being away and in peril at times.
Please tell the people of HK that Filipinos love unconditionally as Juanita did.
The Rizal Park incident last August may have caused grief and pain. This time around, the shoe is in the other foot.
We cry. But we also say thank you Juanita, for giving, that which many simply waste or render useless. A life. You are my Rizal!